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Planning a Software Project (Overview, Steps, Goals, Examples)

What a Software Development Plan Is

A software development plan is essentially a project timeline in its most basic form. It displays the starting and ending times for each phase’s schedule. A phase’s various substeps are visible when you zoom in on it. Before we jump into the main point which is planning a software project, let’s learn whart a software development is.

A software development plan outlines the strategy the project will employ as well as the resources required. Clients and other stakeholders, as well as the project team members, should pay attention to this. Your team and clients will be able to understand your plan easily if you use a flipbook software to document it and present it in an engaging manner.

The development strategy responds to the following inquiries:

  • What issues is the software project trying to tackle and fix?
  • What are the primary duties?
  • What resources does the project require?
  • When are the resources required for the project?
  • Which functionality has been chosen to solve the issue?
  • How long is it expected to take to finish the project or the sprints?
  • What are the milestonesdeadlinesdeliverables, and dependencies?
  • Who are the people working on this project?
  • What tasks are assigned to each team member?
  • How is quality assessed? What metrics measure quality?

Managers can include a variety of items in the software management plan. The bare minimum are these:

  • The outputs of the software that are anticipated.
  • At this point, the specifics of the functionality have not been defined. Nevertheless, the plan ought to include documentation of the outputs.
  • Who will be responsible for releasing the software? Typically, this is the principal investigator, the person in charge and responsible of the project, or the lead developer.
  • The revision management process that will be utilised during the software development procedure.
  • The licence that applies to each output.

What Are the Goals of Planning a Software Project? 

We can say that the primary objective of planning is organising the process in order to guarantee that the requirements of the client and the user are met, as well as preventing problems and misunderstandings. The manner in which it is carried out will have a significant impact on whether or not the project is successful. If we were to delve a little deeper into the reasons behind planning a software development project, we would find that the primary goal is to have a comprehensive view of the following:

  • The software project’s functional goal
  • The activities and related tasks required to satisfy each functional requirement
  • the ranking of the development of features’ top priorities
  • The parties involved and their distinct roles and obligations
  • Resources and realistic estimates 
  • The performance and process metrics used to gauge productivity and output calibre.

The following are crucial objectives and requirements for successful planning:

  • having a thorough understanding of the objectives and requirements
  • locating time- and money-saving solutions to finish the project
  • having a complete project roadmap documented
  • adherence to high standards for development,
  • supplying customers with dependable, high-quality goods
  • ensuring the adaptability required to accept modifications and iterations without having an impact on the procedure.

As you can see, there are objectives for the project as well as objectives for the business. When a problem or a roadblock arises, having a well-thought-out development plan is also helpful. It is simpler to find them and get rid of them by going through the process without delaying things.

Why is a software development plan important?

As can be seen, there are objectives associated with the project as well as objectives associated with the business. When there is a problem or a roadblock in the way, having a development plan that has been well thought out is helpful. By sticking to the procedure, it will be much simpler to recognise and eliminate these issues without compromising the schedule.

When you use a gantt chart to outline your plan, you can make sure that important milestones, such as approval or launch dates, do not get lost in the rush, and you can also take into account dependencies between different phases of work or tasks. It also provides clear visibility into how work is stacked up across all of your projects, allowing you to take proactive steps to prevent your team from becoming overloaded with work.

Don’t worry; just because you’ve put your plan into writing doesn’t mean that everything is set in stone. Because plans are meant to be flexible, you should feel free to modify your plan so that it corresponds with the process that your team follows, regardless of what that may be. You might, for instance, want to incorporate Agile sprints into your gantt chart. This hybrid strategy enables you to do the following:

  • Encourage cooperative effort and open communication.
  • Make sure to take into account the various stakeholders throughout the process, and develop a more formalised feedback loop.
  • Build approval and iteration cycles into your project plan

The planning of the project is assisted in by a number of different people. The senior management and the project management team are included in this category. The senior management is in charge of recruiting team members and supplying the necessary resources for the project. It is the responsibility of the project management team, which typically consists of project managers and developers, to plan, determine, and keep track of the activities that are associated with the project. The following table details the responsibilities that each participant in the software development project was responsible for.

It is essential to have effective project planning in order to start the project with clearly delineated responsibilities. The additional costs that are incurred on a project while it is in progress can be kept to a minimum with the assistance of effective project planning. It is necessary to adhere to certain principles in order to plan projects effectively. The following is a list of these principles:

  • Planning is necessary and important: Planning should be done before a project begins. It is important that both your goals and your schedule be crystal clear in order to have successful planning.
  • Risk analysis: Before getting started on the project, senior management and the team that will be managing the project should think about the potential risks that the project could face. It’s possible, for instance, that the user will want to alter the requirements for the project while it’s still ongoing. In this kind of scenario, the estimation of the amount of time and money ought to be carried out in accordance with those requirements (new requirements).
  • Tracking of project plan: When the plan for the project is finished being drafted, it needs to be monitored and adjusted as needed.
  • Meet quality standards and produce quality deliverables: The plan for the project needs to specify the procedures that the project management team will follow in order to guarantee the quality and standard of the software. It is estimated that the project will consume a certain amount of time and cost a certain amount of money based on the method that will be used to ensure quality.
  • Description of flexibility to accommodate changes: The end result of project planning is documented in the form of a project plan, which should make it possible to accommodate any new changes that arise while the project is still active.

10 crucial steps to create a software project 

You will need to determine both your inputs and the outputs that you want before you can create a plan for the development of software. Inputs are things like materials and information that are necessary for a project like the one that is being proposed. What you hope to accomplish is referred to as your outputs. For the purpose of determining these parameters, it is customarily advisable to hold a meetings with the various stakeholders involved in the project. Because of this, we will be able to find out the following:

  • In relation to this project, what kinds of materials have been already been prepared?
  • What other work needs to be done in terms of either discovery or documentation?
  • What specifics are necessary from a software development plan in order to meet the demands imposed by the characteristics of the project and the organisational norms and values?
  1. Define your project workflow

When you first start planning your project, the first thing you should do is draught a high-level project workflow. Think about the significant stages that your project will go through, beginning with the ones that happened the earliest and ending with the ones that happened the most recently.

  1. Initiation > Planning > Launch > Delivery > Closing

In some cases, an excessive amount of focus is placed on the launch and delivery phases without much thought being given to the phases that came before them. The purpose of this exercise or action is to help you gain perspective and see how one phase leads naturally into the next. Before delving into the specifics of the project, it is imperative that you first obtain this bird’s-eye view.

  1. Set the parameters of your project plan.

When developing a plan for a project, one of the first decisions that must be made is how far into the project the plan will go. It’s possible that your project plan will cover the entirety of the project, or it might just cover a portion of it. This is dependant on the magnitude (or length) of the project you are going to be working on. Complete planning should be done in advance for any project that will be finished within the next six months. However, if the duration of your project is anticipated to be greater than that, you should give thought to planning it out in stages.

The longer a project is in progress, the greater the chance that the initial estimates will turn out to be inaccurate. It doesn’t matter how well thought out your project plan is; it’s still difficult to account for the unknowns that could potentially have a cumulative effect on the project over its lifetime. Consider developing a project plan for only the first six months of a project that will last longer than six months. After that, take some time to sit down and reset your project plan before moving on to the next phase of development.

  1. Clarify process and project outputs

You need to make a decision about the outputs of your project before we get too far into this conversation. Define exactly what the end result of your efforts would look like if they were successful. Regarding this matter, all relevant parties should be on the same page. If this is not done, it could result in significant requests for changes to be made to the scope of the project further down the road. These sorts of alterations have the potential to result in expensive delays throughout the project.

At this point in the process, it is essential to reach a consensus on the software development process that will be applied in the course of project delivery. Assumptions are bound to be formed at times; consequently, it is critical to provide proactive clarification to all stakeholders as early as possible to avoid any misunderstandings. It is essential that you do not lose sight of the bigger picture in this situation!

  1. Estimate the workload

It is now time to make an estimate of the amount of labour necessary to achieve development success. During the estimation process, you should fight the temptation to provide the team with any suggestions or opinions you may have on how long particular tasks will take. By doing so, you run the risk of anchoring them to an inaccurate estimate. In order to obtain the most precise assessment of the number of work that needs to be done, you should encourage all members of the team to share their personal estimates.

We strongly suggest making use of a “blind estimate” method like the Delphi Estimation or the Planning Poker method. Because of the use of these tools, each member of the team is prompted to share their perspectives, and the presence of a single powerful voice in the room does not influence the team.

  1. Question the estimate

It is important to ask questions throughout the process of estimation because an accurate estimate can set a project up for success, whereas an inaccurate estimate can doom the project before it has even begun. Through the use of open-ended questions, estimation constraints can be uncovered. Questions like “How do you plan to accomplish this?” or “Why did you suggest that estimate?” are two examples. Questions of this nature encourage teams to examine the validity of their preconceived notions and consider the impact of any newly discovered information.

When estimating the amount of work that needs to be done, you should always leave some room for error, even if the method you use is very precise. It may be possible to prevent the project from falling behind schedule by including a contingency plan that accounts for unforeseen complications or expanded scope. The longer and more difficult the project, the greater the amount of contingency planning that is needed. Because humans have a natural tendency toward optimism, it is uncommon for projects to have estimates that are too high or budgets that are too low. It is highly recommended that all projects include a contingency budget of between 10 and 25 percent, or even more.

  1. Establish milestones to track progress

The client may find it beneficial to establish milestones in order to keep track of the progress of the project, particularly in the context of engagements between the client and the agency. The completion of the “design phase,” the “building of the prototype,” or the “delivery of the MVP” could all be considered milestones. Because of the existence of these milestones, the client and the stakeholders will have a method to check in on the delivery timelines on a more regular basis. If the milestones are delayed for an unreasonable amount of time, certain clients may choose to include a clause in their contract that allows them to terminate the agreement and find another provider of the solution they require.

Although defining milestones can be beneficial for the client, it can also help the vendor side keep momentum, which is beneficial for both parties. The development team is better able to concentrate on shipping the product as quickly as possible when milestones are defined up front. They are completely focused on the upcoming events because they are aware of what will occur.

  1. Make preparations for your resources by looking forward

Now that you have an idea of the workload and milestones that are required for your project, you can begin to make projections regarding the resources that will be required at various stages of the project. While you are in the process of putting together your development team, you should also determine the stages of the project at which each member of the team must be brought up to speed. It is highly likely that you will not require every resource for the entirety of the project.

For instance, the design team and stakeholders typically need to put in more work during the initial planning and design phases of software development than they will need to during the project’s development phases. On the other hand, members of the software development team won’t likely be as necessary in the project’s initial stages, but they will undoubtedly be needed when the software is being created.

In order to determine the members of the team that will be necessary for your project, you will need to take into consideration the following aspects of the software project:

  • The scope of the software project, as well as the manner in which the work can be logically divided into distinct segments such as modules, user stories, journeys, or features.
  • Expected pace of the SDLC
  • Members of the project team’s technical expertise (designers, QA, front-end developers, back-end developers, platform engineers, etc.)
  • crucial delivery path for project success
  • Requirements for advancing software development projects

The “fallacy of the mythical man-month” is something that should be kept in mind. The central idea here is that simply adding more resources to a project will not automatically result in a faster delivery rate for the finished product. When this occurs, especially at the wrong point in the project’s timeline, the delivery speed typically suffers as a direct consequence.

  1. Leave room for changes

This is an alternative to carrying out a “post-mortem.” Even if you do not carry out a formal “pre-mortem,” you should still make preparations for problems and delays related to the project. Think about how you’ll handle problems as they arise and plan accordingly. Keeping a realistic risks and issues log as well as a list of mitigations can be helpful throughout the entirety of the project when it comes to managing things.

  1. Plan the transition to service

Even projects that have been delivered successfully can fail when they reach the last obstacle. Be sure not to overlook the work that must be done after the software has been delivered. In order to get a head start on this process, you should get in touch with a service delivery team. These teams will typically have a checklist titled “transition to service” that contains non-functional requirements. These requirements ought to have been incorporated into the overall project plan for the software development right from the beginning.

You will need an adequate amount of time and resources to hand over the finished system or product to the team that will be responsible for its maintenance. In addition to this, a plan for post-go-live support should be included. Because this aspect of project management determines how the project will be remembered in the future, it is critical to get it right in order to keep a positive relationship with the customer.

Conduct a post-project review

At the conclusion of a project, project teams are frequently disbanded as quickly as possible and reallocated to other initiatives. Consequently, a post-mortem investigation of a project is frequently overlooked. This post-project review needs to be incorporated into the plan for the software project in order to ensure that sufficient resources are set aside to carry out the work.

You should not ignore this phase because doing so will require future projects to waste time and resources repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This process can take much time and also expensive.

Asking open-ended questions during the post-project review helps gather information and supports reflection in the following ways:

  • What are some of the important takeaways from this project?
  • What worked really well? In what ways can this be used as a model for future projects?
  • What did not go in the way that was anticipated? What measures or actions can be taken to ensure that this does not occur on subsequent projects?
  • Were the project’s goals successfully completed?
  • What advantages were gained by the company as a result of the project?

Examples of software development plans

1. Gantt

Create a simple timeline that displays the different phases of the work, including the sprints. A brief overview of some of the helpful features that can be found in the gantt chart view is provided here.

2. Drag and drop

Because of the intuitive drag-and-drop user interface, it is simple to rearrange things on the schedule as necessary if (and when) something unexpected occurs. You can quickly reschedule a sprint cycle by dragging and dropping entire task groups. It’s as simple as that!

3. Dependencies

There may be a specific order in which the tasks in your project plan need to be finished. For instance, it’s almost certain that you won’t deploy anything until you’ve completed at least one cycle of testing. Use dependencies to make sure tasks are completed in the correct order.

4. Milestones

By utilising milestones in a project, you can call out important dates, deadlines, approvals, or deliverables, and you will be able to hit your launch date right on schedule.

5. Duplicating groups

Do you need to incorporate additional sprint cycles into your plan? Duplicating task groups is all that is required to save time during the task setup process. The rescheduling of it in your timeline can then be accomplished by dragging and dropping.

6. Assign resources to tasks

You can ensure that everyone is aware of how their contribution fits into the overall plan by delegating teams and resources to specific tasks. This will allow you to ensure that everyone is aware of how their contribution and action fits into the overall plan.

7. List

This view is straightforward and easy to understand, and it outlines what each stage of the plan entails along with an estimate of when it will be delivered. Checking in at your upcoming standup meeting should be done in List view.

8. Calendar

Utilize the Calendar view to obtain a clear understanding of where upcoming tasks will be located on the monthly calendar. It is a useful instrument for keeping in touch with stakeholders so that you can schedule reviews around times that are convenient for them.


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Waydev. (2022, June 2). 9-step guide: How to plan effective software development projects. Waydev. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from https://waydev.co/software-projects-planning/

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